Sunday, January 25, 2015

Wave Training – The Build to Worlds

In 8 months time the ICF World Championships will be taking place on 'Garb' wave on the Ottawa river in Canada. The Ottawa River is renowned amongst freestyle kayakers as one of the best training venues and is home to some of the best surf waves in the world. In the summers there's warm water, sunshine and a mixture of small and smooth and fast technical waves and in the spring its home to some of the biggest most challenging waves ever surfed.

Surfing the awesome Garb wave

A test to its quality and standard, this will be the third time the river has been selected to host a freestyle kayak World Championships. In 1997 the Rodeo World Championships took part on the waves on the Mc Coys rapid, then in 2007 the first ICF World Championships took place on the Lorne rapids Bus Eater wave and now in 2015 it will host another ICF World Championships again on the Lorne rapids but this time on Garburator wave. 

This, my fourth World Championships and my second on the Ottawa river, will be one of my biggest competitive challenges yet. I will be returning as the three time and defending squirt boat world champion and two times and defending freestyle kayak world champion to battle for gold in both events. That a challenge in itself I will be competing against the best paddlers in the world, in category's where the standard is rising rapidly week after week, on a wave!

Throwing the Helix on Nile Special, Uganda

I grew up paddling and competing in holes across the UK and I have become proficient in hole boating. Winning my two freestyle world titles competing in holes. Now, for the first time in over 8 years I will be competing in a wave worlds. I finished 11th in 2007. In 2007 I could count the number of days I had spent surfing waves on one hand. I was new to competing and new to surfing waves. I enjoyed the event and did really well but still didn't have much grasp on how to paddle waves, let alone how to paddle them well. In 2009 I skipped the freestyle worlds, a wave event, to concentrate on squirt boating where I won my first gold. Now in 2015 I have the challenge of competing against some extremely talented and experienced wave boaters on a extremely technical, fast wave.

Clean Blunting on Garb, Canada

Over the last seven years I have been aware that my wave boating level and experience has been significantly lower than my hole boating skills. In the last few years with the help of my coach Dennis Newton (Sweetwater Coaching), I have gone about doing some specific wave training trips to Uganda and Canada to work on developing these skills.

Dropping in to surf Habitat 67 wave, Canada

At the start of 2014 the standard difference really began to show again as I started nailing some crazy combos in the hole but still didn't fully have much grasp of the basic wave skills. So we set about creating a plan for change. We looked at the year and set about creating a wave training and development strategy and plan that would see me spending as much time as possible training on waves. We noticed that all four of the major events on the freestyle tour were once again on holes and during the main wave training season in North America.

So with my goal (as it has been for many years) to be the best paddler I can possibly be and with a focus on the 2015 ICF World Championships it was a relatively easy decision, I had to miss the ICF World Cups and European Championships and go and spent the summer training on the waves. To some it was a big call but to me and Den it just made sense. It was the only chance I would have to really gain the wave boating experience I needed in order to give myself the best chance to be as good as I possibly could be in time for Worlds.

Training on the White Nile, Africa

So now over a year on and after spending a full summer on waves, I realise the decision we made was the right one. It was so worth while. Over the last 12 months I have had some major break throughs. I have begun to develop an understanding of wave boating. I have not only begun to be able to throw a whole range of different moves but I have also learnt to adapt them to the different styles, speeds and shapes of the different waves. With the help of Den and many other paddling coaches and friends around the world I have now thrown almost every wave move (left and right). I have medalled in a number of wave competitions and been able to lay down some solid routines and rides. I have made massive progress in my paddling and confidence on a wave and I am beginning to feel ready for worlds.

Competing in the Payette River Games, USA

My challenge now, with 8 months left to go, is to take what i've learnt and to keep applying it to a whole mix of different waves. To get these new wave moves consistent and technically perfect, and to be able to perform them on demand as part of a routine. This is a challenge, a fun challenge, a big challenge. One I am enjoying and one I can't wait to put to the final test.